School safety and security have been at the forefront of our minds because of the recent tragedy in Parkland, FL. It seems as if the conversation around safety and security have taken a different tone, and this is why I was glad to read the Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed by my friend Mark Hamstra, Dedicated teachers — not gun-toting teachers — key to safety in Chicago schools.
I truly appreciate Mark’s comments as he works in Chicago, and how he has used his experience as a soldier in Afghanistan in thinking about his work in building relationships of trust. In this podcast you’ll hear me ask Mark about a few quotes from his article and for him to share a bit more about how the schools in the Noble Network try to create a healthy, safe, and strong school culture where students are known.
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My first question was in regards to his statement:
Real school security can’t be established at the point of a gun. It grows from dedicated teachers providing great instruction in a safe and supportive environment, where every student knows there is at least one adult who knows them well and cares deeply about them. Such an environment encourages students to share troubling information, whether it involves their own lives or those of their classmates.
Likewise, I asked him to share more about how to build a school culture that reflects his statement about building relationships of trust:
The truth is that any school, including those I support, could be the next target. But we stand a greater chance of preventing more tragedies by building school cultures that are founded on trust among teachers and students. That’s not as quick or visible as arming teachers. There is no “silver bullet” to secure our schools, but the answer surely is not more bullets in the classroom.
Mark Hamstra is director of Student Culture & Support at Noble Network of Charter Schools, Head Football Coach at Bulls Prep Academy, and a Major in the Illinois Army National Guard. Mark is a graduate of Wheaton College where he was the captain of the football team, and he holds a Master’s degree in Management and Leadership from the University of Texas, El Paso.